Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It Doesn't Get Any Less Partisan Than Pinterest

 Have you pinned, lately? I invite you to scroll through the many wonders your fellow man (but mostly woman) has created from burlap, a pair of craft scissors, and a hot glue gun. Get a clue, get some glue; BookFace ain’t where it’s at. Pinterest is the next social network venue for the crafty, the curious, and the visually oriented. It’s a never-ending corkboard that doesn’t require you to use those dangerously sharp pushpins.
Putting sticky raw dough in your waffle iron? A potential Pinterest fail, despite the pretty picture.
I recently joined, but haven’t pinned yet. Instead, I’ve copied countless tips regarding cleaning, decorating, and entertaining toddlers to the Notes section of my iPhone. While waiting in a doctor’s office, nothing beats compulsively flicking through the seemingly endless offerings. Will I ever repurpose an old door by converting it into a weathered farm table, a headboard, a bookshelf? Er, probably not. But boy, do I love seeing and reading about how someone ELSE did.
There are some notions I’m not interested in. I’ve never been one for elaborate projects, so I tend to skip over the cricut-adorned photo mats, captioned baby pictures, and scrapbooking ideas. If that’s your bag, though, it’s totally cool! Pinterest doesn’t judge; just keep going until you get to that next family-pleasing crockpot recipe that will change your life (I’m also a frequent visitor to Pinterest/Food). You can even select different subject filters so that you’ll only see, for example, the Do-It-Yourself section (my favorite).
So, to sum up, Pinterest is about making you feel confident and capable—good about yourself. It gives me something to think about as I struggle to fall asleep at night: I wonder if that pot roast recipe, the one that uses a whole stick of butter, a packet of ranch dressing, and a packet of au jus mix is as delicious as it sounds? I can’t wait to make salt dough imprints of my children’s feet and give it to grandma as a Christmas present! Does homemade edible glitter really exist, or is it another one of those Pinterest myths?
This all may sound pretty tame—or lame—to you. But it’s my life right now. I’ve never been crafty. I’ve consistently struggled to find creative ways to entertain my two small children. The question "What's for dinner?" haunts my waking dreams. Pinterest provides me with endless possibilities, and it does so in a gentle, reassuring way. It’s as easy or as complicated as you want it to be.
After happily embracing Pinterest, I found myself using Facebook less (hereafter referred to as FB). I compulsively checked FB for updates, but doing so only left me feeling hollow and sad. The recent contentious presidential election didn’t help. Partisan postings increased in a frenzied manner. There’s nothing wrong with self-expression, but can we do it with a sense of happiness and humor? Politics and elections are important but--let’s face it--they are not the be all and end all either.
47% of me finds this man attractive: chiseled, independently wealthy, and Mormon. What's not to like?

Granted, discovering the ideal glass shower door cleaner (Dawn dishwashing liquid and white vinegar, FYI) is not more important than who is president or the policies that govern our lives. However, such small, enlightening discoveries helped me to see what is really important in my life (another one: did you know that dusting your baseboards with a dryer sheet will prevent grime and dust collecting there? Oh yeah.) I was spending far too much time reading other people’s FB rants rather than improving my own lot.  FB is indeed a convenient way to maintain long-distance friendships and to share cherished moments (births, birthdays, holidays) and sad occasions (the passing away of a loved one or pet, not getting the job), but my feed of late has turned into a forum in which we high-five each other in collective smugness.
The trick of getting through life as a happy warrior, I think, is recognizing the macrocosm and microcosm of your existence. A belief in God definitely helps you make this distinction, but atheists can be successful at it as well. The macrocosm is the world beyond your family and personal sphere of friends and acquaintances. Your microcosm is everything else that you hold dear to your heart: your community, your children, your immediate family, making your home welcoming and special, updating your blog. I would argue that changes in the microcosm, even small ones, have greater impact upon our well being than seemingly large changes in the macrocosm.
I’m tired of obsessing about what’s going on in the macrocosm. I am ready to focus on what’s going on closer to home. Please note that focusing on the microcosm does not have to mean you turn into a selfish person; it may translate into volunteering, or being more patient with your sometimes exasperating children at the end of a long day, or deciding to not pick a fight with your spouse over whose turn it was to take out the trash.
That’s why I’m trying to take a mental health break from FB, but I’ll continue to post the occasional link to my beloved (i.e. beloved to me) blog Hell’s Domestic Backside there for any of my friends who want to read it. I promise not to be so serious in the future.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to Get Your Legs to Shut Up

Before I launch into a discussion about diet, can anyone answer the question of how the Real Housewives of Orange County get their legs so delightfully shiny before they go on camera? Is it Vaseline? Coconut oil? Perhaps Korres Body Butter with a tangy yogurt scent? My dream is to have shiny legs all the time. The first step, however, is to get my legs to stop talking to me. I of course am referencing the dreaded blebs of subcutaneous fat that speak in either a wicked whisper or an insistent yell, depending on how much extra adipose tissue one is carrying.
The bleb I mentioned in an earlier blog post is the tummy bleb many women acquire after carrying one or more tiny humans in their tummies for one or more times. It is what it is: I’m not judging the bleb. I neither praise nor condemn it. But I for one am tired of hearing it complain. One tummy bleb is enough; I don’t need other parts of my body trying to get my attention.
With this goal in mind, one month ago I “cleaned” up my diet to lose weight and get more energy. Sounds like a late-night infomercial, no? LOSE WEIGHT! GAIN ENERGY! However, by eating less you really can achieve this. It’s a no-brainer. Specifically, I cut out all grains—bread, pasta, rice, doughnuts (they really deserve their own category, that’s how delicious they are)—and most sugars. My sister Katie has had great success following the Paleolithic Diet, also known as the What Would a Caveman Eat diet.
"Drog, does this spear make me look fat?"

Here’s what you CAN eat: fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meat, fish, roots, and nuts. I have added a few key items to this list to keep my life joyful, namely sugar-free frappucinos, good cheese (occasional), and Greek yogurt, plus a small dose of refined sugar now and again. I call it the “What Brendan Fraser Would Eat” diet (I’m sorry if you don’t get my Encino Man allusion; please see Google and Wikipedia). You CAN’T eat salt, refined sugar, dairy, grains, and processed oils. Naturally processed foods are out too because they contain sugar, are high in sodium, canola and soybean oils, and refined grains. Most fats are your friend, contrary to popular belief.
Pauly Shore's finest hour

My legs and arms have stopped talking to me. My hips and backside have quieted down. I’ve lost a total of five pounds so far; after I fit into my favorite jeans with a little room to spare, I’ll continue with my lifestyle changes. Everyone seems to have a baseline weight at which they plateau; I’ll be content after I get there.
The central idea behind the Paleo Diet is that the human species was not meant to eat grain. We became an agricultural society after we got the whole hunter-gatherer gig down. Men burned a lot of calories running after (and from) their dinner, and women stayed svelte by foraging for nuts and berries—the primitive version of the side dish, if you will. I recently read this Internet article (it may be total bull crap, who knows) that grains have actually adapted their forms to AVOID being eaten. That is, they are hard to digest on purpose. The diagram of an average grain glowering at me through his hard-to-digest bushy eyebrows was truly haunting!
All I care about, however, is keeping my weight down and my blood sugars stable. As a type 1 diabetic, both are hard goals to reach: I have to eat to correct occasional dips in blood sugar, even when I’m not hungry, and my blood sugars are often all over the place.
            Initially I didn’t get the positive results I had anticipated. I’m still waiting for my body to adjust to my new diet of meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  For some unknown reason, my blood sugar numbers are not improving. So, while I am feeling better in other ways, inexplicably my higher blood sugars are vexing me both mentally and physically.
One possible explanation is my stupid liver. It releases sugar for my brain when it thinks it is not getting enough. Glucose is the primary fuel that powers our brains, and when the brain doesn’t function well it could put all your other organs in jeopardy. To which I respond, “Calm down, liver! Can’t you be happy using my stored fat for brain energy?” These entreaties fall on deaf ears, however, as my liver counters by faithfully pumping out more sugar that I need like a hole in the head. Hello Liver, perhaps you haven’t met Pancreas? He receives disability payments in the form of insulin that I manually pump into my system on an hourly basis. Anyway, it’s all too complicated for a brainless organ like you to understand. Just stop it will all the sugar, Liver, or else I’ll drink a lot and piss you off.
            Back to the Real Housewives and their beauty secrets. I want to know how they get their legs so nice and shiny. Is my obsession with the Real Housewives and their shiny legs a direct consequence of my brain not getting enough glucose?  
"The secret to shiny legs is..."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Boob Tube News

My TV watching habits can be divided into two distinct categories: The Real Housewives and everything else. “Everything else” covers a heck of a lot of territory, so I thought I’d share what I enjoyed over the past season—or seasons, as the case may be. I believe that every one of these shows is coming back! Also, in some cases past episodes are currently available on Netflix.

 Enlightened (HBO). Laura Dern and Mike White (whose writing credits include Orange County, Nacho Libre,—yes, he’s probably buddies with Jack Black!—and TV’s cult favorite Freaks and Geeks) are co-writers of this tragic-comedy-drama renewed for a second season. Amy Jellicoe affirms Henry James’ oft quoted adage, “Civility begins at home.” If you don’t treat the people closest to you well, it doesn’t matter how many noble causes you enlist in.  After her holistic health retreat in Hawaii following a mental breakdown in the workplace, Amy receives a $50,000 bill—the remainder of her first payment. Her mother (real life mom Diane Ladd) questions the outrageous price tag, to which Dern replies, “They gave me back my life, mom. You can’t put a price tag on that.” To which Ladd retorts, “Well, apparently you can!” One still gets the feeling that Jellicoe is on the verge of another nervous breakdown, or at least in need of medication. Amy’s relentless desire for acceptance from her peers is alternately cringe-worthy and inspiring of pity. Dern’s character endured personal setbacks that led to her spectacular meltdown at work. Unfortunately, the first season is currently available only on HBO GO.

Leather jacket, meet leather codpiece.
Once Upon a Time (ABC). The inhabitants of a quaint but creepy small Maine town (redundant description! See: Stephen King) all have fairy tale doppelgangers that exist in an alternate dimension, but not all of them know it. There’s the evil raven-haired queen who has stolen Snow White’s grandson and raised him as her own; Snow White’s daughter Emma (the show’s creators have deviated somewhat from the traditional characters and storylines); the sad but scheming Rumpelstilskin, and a really wussy Prince Charming, never quite ready to commit to his true love Snow White. The tween and teen set will also enjoy this slightly scary take that blends modern and traditional elements of beloved fairy tales.

The Life and Times of Tim (HBO). Steve Dildarian’s brainchild is Curb Your Enthusiasm meets South Park for the 20-something set. Tim (Dildarian) means well, but somehow his best intentions always go awry. In the process he offends long-suffering girlfriend Amy (voiced by MJ Otto), befriends local hookers, and further degrades himself by hanging with best friends Stu (Nick Kroll from TV’s “The League”) and Rodney (comedian Matt Johnson). Now into its third season, Tim features famous guest voices like Fred Willard, Super Dave Osborne (Bob Einstein—comedian Albert Brooks’ brother), and Billy Dee Williams. If you are a guy, this show will make you laugh out loud; if you are a woman, give it a shot. I cannot be held liable if you find the content therein offensive and/or unfunny.

The dream of the monster is alive...in Portland!
Grimm (NBC). Wouldn’t it be cool if the Grimms were still around today to track down the monsters and demons among us? They are, according to this new NBC show. The monsters can smell out a Grimm and vice versa. One downside is that modern Grimm (Nick Burkhardt, played by David Giuntoli) is nicer than his ancestors; he doesn’t shoot to kill. He wants to talk with the monster to understand its motivations. Nick maintains a tenuous friendship with Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a werewolf who has renounced his primal spirit to live a semi-normal life. Monroe’s contacts among the furry and scary sectors of Portland society prove useful in Nick’s many murder investigations. This Grimm has a partner, but he’s not a relative; detective Hank Griffin has his back but doesn’t know about the supernatural stuff. Each week introduces the audience to a new foe; it’s not always the strongest that is the most evil, either. Sometimes the weak and downtrodden pose the biggest threat. A little too scary for the Nickolodeon and Disney Channel generation, but teenagers 14 and up will enjoy being being scared.

Shameless (Showtime). (for the life of me I could not successfully transfer an image from the show--sorry) Fiona Gallagher is the reluctant matriarch of a large, fatherless brood of children barely making it on Chicago’s south side. Her bipolar mother abandoned the clan to hit the road with her lesbian trucker girlfriend. William H. Macy has all but traded in his parental duties for beer and wastes his days at a local dive bar, dreaming up scams and swindles that eventually come back to bite him on his scrawny behind. Home life is chaotic but loving. At 21, Fiona is torn between having fun with her car-stealing but rich boyfriend Steve (Justin Chatwin) and taking care of her family, whose ages range from 2 to 16. Decisions have consequences in this excellently written and acted show; in spite of the free-flowing curse words and graphic sexual scenes, the underlying message remains one of hopeful morality. In the end, Fiona and her siblings put the needs of family before their own.